We recently visited the ECHO Demonstration Farm in Fort Myers, Florida. ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) is a great resource for those wanting to learn how to grow food in difficult conditions. This trip was focused on a missionary project in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I am vice-president of Gather The Fragments Bible Mission Church, Inc. – my wife and I provide logistical support for missionaries working to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a remote part of a very remote country – Sierra Leone. This trip to ECHO was with one of those missionaries so that she could learn more about how to improve the agriculture in that area.
ECHO publishes some excellent books. “Amaranth to Zai Holes – Ideas for Growing Food Under Difficult Conditions” is one of my favorites. While it covers problems that we in The South usually don’t face (iguanas, elephants, and monkeys are not typical garden pests here in The South), it is filled with great ideas that we can use here.
Guide describing the "urban garden" area. The farm is divided into different environments, and the urban garden area is build on a concrete slab.
The chickens coop in the back supplies manure, which is made into a tea, which is drip irrigated on the plants.
Wooden pallets used to build a platform that holds plastic bags of soil for plants to grow in.
Poles forming a pyramid for plants to climb on.
Extremely shallow planting. A plastic pool liner was used, along with a piece of old carpeting to grow crops in. Hay and other materials provide shade for the roots and reduce evaporation.
More shallow garden experiments. All of these are right on top of a concrete slab.
Plants growing in concrete blocks.
Sweet potatoes being grown in a stack of old tires filled with soil.
Tall poles (about 12' tall) were used to support climbing plants such as pole beans and cucumbers. The cord wrapped around gives the plants something to hold onto. The poles were supported with guy wires.
Biogas generator. This system uses manure to generate, capture, and store methane gas. The gas is stored in a truck inner tube. It is used to run a stove and lantern in this arrangement.
This is a dug well that has two pumps in it. The one being demonstrated here uses a hand crank that pulls pistons on a rope through a PVC pipe to pump the water.
This is a treadle powered pump that supplies the garden area to the left.
Huge sunflowers being grown here. These are the "Mammoth" variety.
Rice paddy demonstration. This is the traditional flood technique. Part of the reason this technique is used is to raise eels that are a delicacy in some parts of the world.
This is a newer, more efficient method of growing rice. The fields are not flooded, and other crops are planted between rice crops.
These ducks are part of a food producing ecosystem that includes micro-organisms that feed on the duck manure, and tilapia that feeds on organisms a bit higher on the food chain. The end result is meat from the fish, and eggs and meat from the ducks.
Plants being readied for their place at the ECHO farm.